Recent announcements give Prince Albert French community hope for new school

The French community has high hopes for a new French language school. /Daily Herald File Photo

A recent announcement by the Minister of Education regarding a new francophone school in Regina has the Société canadienne-française de Prince Albert (SCFPA) and the École Valois Parents’ Council hoping for a follow through for a new French language institution for the city.

Recently, Minster of Education Gord Wyant announced details for a new school in Regina. Wyant, the francophone parents and the Conseil des écoles fransaskoises’ (CEF) created a positive initiative for the entire francophone community in Regina.

“Progress in Regina is a good thing for the whole provincial community and that obviously means, we are hoping anyways that the provinces’ intention is to honour the MOU for all three schools and so we are very excited about that,” SCFPA chair Estelle Hjertaas said.

“We think of ourselves as Fransaskois in the whole province. So good news for one part of the province is good news for everybody in the province,” she added.

Since signing an MOU with the CEF in March 2019, which stipulates three new francophone schools to be built by 2023, including one for Prince Albert, the

Ministry of Education has made the first steps with the Regina announcement.

In a release signed by both Hjertaas and Parents’ Council Chair Roger Boucher they urged the ministry to respect the agreement and to quickly announce the establishment of French-language schools in Prince Albert and Saskatoon.

“The confirmation of this new school in Regina is, in our opinion, the ideal achievement of the second stage of the MOU signed last year,” the release stated.

The city’s French community has outgrown École Valois and former community centre. It’s inadequate to meet the expectations and needs of parents, students and other French-speaking citizens, including newcomers, with respect to the educational, sporting, economic and cultural potential of the community according to the group.

The SCFPA and École Valois Parents’ Council are waiting for a third-party professional analysis of options available for a “new” francophone school in Prince Albert.

According to Hjertaas, the Rivier Academy School remains for sale. She is not part of the negotiations but those who are involved are waiting for an answer on the project. The SCFPA has put forward a business case for use of that facility.

“It is all in excellent condition but there is only a few of them (the nuns) left so they want to have an answer either way. My understanding from the sisters is that they would obviously prefer it stay within the French community as they are all Francophone, but if some other buyer comes then such is life,” she explained.

 “The parents and students of École Valois have been patient and now need a clear indication from the authorities how they intend to adequately meet the educational needs of the entire francophone school population in the Prince Albert region in the near future,” Boucher added in the release.

The business case they made provides a financially sustainable, long-term vision for the former school, convent and residence, including maintaining Marion Aquatics, Hjertaas said. The vision is to develop a school and community and cultural hub at the site of the former all-girls Catholic school, which was closed by the Prince Albert Catholic School Division in 2016.

They expect the review of the business case to be done by the end of September.

“Our understanding is essentially there will be the two main options, there was a number of options considered. But in the end it will really be a consideration of whether the best option would be to buy Rivier and renovate it or whether the best option would be to build an entirely new school. So we don’t know what they are going to say on that so we are anxiously awaiting that report to be done,” she said.

Hjertaas explained that the whole issue is causing uncertainty in the community and knowing a timeline would be beneficial.

 “There are all of these uncertainties around that and having an answer of timelines would assist everyone. Once there is a timeline in place, it will assist everybody from our association, to the members, to the school and the parents and everyone else to plan and know what is happening in their lives,” she said.

They expect the review to be completed and to receive it after it goes through Provincial Government channels. Hjertaas explained that it would pass through the CEF before the final plans are known.

“Then they have to decide what their priority is based on the recommendations in the report whether it would be a new school in PA or a new build and the Government of Saskatchewan, I assume, makes the final decision,” Hjertaas said.

-With files from Jayda Taylor, Prince Albert Daily Herald